Arena, Part IV: Setbacks

I started off the next chapter in my adventure simply stocking up on potions. I returned to the Mage’s Guild and bartered with the mage merchant there to get some potions to heal, to cure disease, and to break free of paralysis.

Then I explored the town some more, picking up a few more quests: two deliveries and another escort mission. These were all easy and simple. Finding the quests in the first place was often part of the fun, talking to various people about rumors and then following up on little bits and pieces of information. Sometimes the rumors would be specific; sometimes they would be something vague, like they heard someone in an inn in a certain part of town might be looking for help with something.

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Finding and fulfilling quests provided a purposeful wandering to get to know Corkarth Run better. I couldn’t tell you where every shop or inn is (I’ve marked the ones I’ve encountered on my map), but I could probably at least remember to which part of town I should head to find a place.

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Cool statue.

I met some more weird people, of course, and I actually came across someone I met before but did not recognize. I still wouldn’t have realized if the dialogue hadn’t cued me in. For all I’ve had to say positively about the sense of immersion, the generic and relatively limited appearances of townsfolk coupled with the low-level graphics make it nearly impossible to actually get to “know” anyone. Aizen will always be the dick who can’t remember anyone’s name, who can’t even really be bothered to try.

Nonetheless, I still enjoy the often goofy and sometimes informative conversations, even when faces and often dialogue quickly repeat. To quote one of the most common answers in Morrowind, “Talk to everyone. Talk is cheap.” This rule definitely applies here. I can never predict who might have an informative general rumor, or a potentially profitable work rumor. I can never know whether the person I talk to is yet another boring tax collector (how many tax collectors does one town need??) or someone with an interesting backstory or clever remark.

After I felt that I had exhausted the immediate supply of quests and gotten to know the town well enough, I decided I’d do some “dungeon crawling” by wandering around at night. I saved, got a room at an inn, and slept the afternoon away.

Emerging into darkness, I was quickly found by another blond mugger, this time dodging his initial spell as much by luck as by skill. I put up a good fight for a while, but I got overconfident, failing to retreat or to use any of my newly purchased health potions. The fight went sour (or maybe I never stood a chance, at least without the use of health potions). And so my overconfidence led me to my first, but certainly not my last, death.

Returning to my last load a little bit later, I repeated the process of purchasing a room for the night and resting up. This time, though, I tried to get smart. I equipped my recently purchased shortbow, hoping that I could backpedal to stay out of melee range.

I didn’t run into the blond mugger. But I did encounter a lot of varied night monsters: rats, goblins, and a lizard man. At one point, a mossy stone figure gave me quite a fright, but I eventually realized–after fighting off a couple nearby goblins without any movement from the thing–that this was just a poorly maintained statue and not a golem. I still shot an arrow its way just to be sure. A little wile later, I heard howling near a gate on the edge of town and retreated, marking it as the “West Gate” for daytime exploration. Down further dark alleys, I heard another fwoom and turned to find a bearded man in apparently luxurious robes. Having encountered a juggler and a couple monks out at night, I didn’t want to immediately assume that he was hostile, but I couldn’t find any other obvious attacker. While I hesitated, he advanced, apparently swinging a staff at me. I quickly backpedaled, frantically pummeling him with arrows until he fell. I looted him of what little valuables he had on him, saved, and moved on.

Almost immediately after leaving the mage, a massive wolf came out of the darkness and attacked me. I once again backpedaled and fired furiously, though the wolf tore a couple of chunks out of me, dropping my health fast. I finally downed the wolf. But just moments after leaving the wolf, there was yet another fwoom and the screen went black. The death cutscene appeared yet again. I can’t prove it, but I blame that goddamn blond mugger for this second death.

My Monster Hunting:

I’d saved at least after the mage (hard to tell if I saved before or after the wolf, given the lack of loot or corpses, but my health bar suggests unfortunately that it was before a now-deceased version of Aizen encountered the great beast). I loaded that save and made my way for the nearest inn, fighting a couple more rats on the way there.

The following day, I decided I’d explore the countryside. It was only the 8th of Hearthfire, still six days until my saber should be repaired, but I checked anyway. No luck. Not wanting to wander the wilderness with only a shortsword and shortbow, I bought another saber, figuring that after some exploring and potential dungeon-delving, I’d want a newly sharpened blade and could just swap the potentially damaged saber for the newly repaired one at a later date.

I set out for the “West Gate” only to discover that this was actually the palace of the town’s local lord.

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I walked in to meet him. It was anticlimactic.

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After leaving and updating the map’s annotation, I headed for the main entrance and set out. I explored the countryside, walking and walking, sometimes over fields, sometimes between trees, sometimes along roads, often past farms and small plantations. I stopped at a couple inns along the way.

I discovered a couple bodies of water, as well.

I had read that you could not physically travel from city to city using the overworld and had to fast travel, but I was still having fun walking and looking for a dungeon.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to sheer obliviousness, I found no dungeon. Growing bored more quickly than I’d like to admit, I came up to a farmhouse and decided to test out lockpicking.

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Maybe I should have taken the hint.

Unsurprisingly, the lock won, and I heard someone shout, “Stop, thief!” I spun to see my new assailant, who looked…suspiciously like my old enemy, Blond Mugger.

I ran and ran, sometimes backpedaling and firing arrows, occasionally downing a health potion. The guard kept pace with me and often struck me. I couldn’t fast-travel away. Suddenly, I backpedaled straight into a body of water. A moment after I fell in, I started kicking off away from the shoreline. The guard did not follow, staring dumbly after me. My fatigue was dropping quickly, and I turned to see that it was a great open lake that I could not hope to swim across. I started moving laterally to the shore, a little ways out, and noted approvingly that the guard did not follow me. I decided that this scene would be a good picture, but I accidentally hit the wrong keys, and…well, I quit to desktop.

Having lost some progress (not a hell of a lot, but enough to be a bit frustrated with myself), I decided that that was a good enough place to end for the week. And so concludes the last two weeks of play.

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